Italy’s 5-Star Movement will not take part in a parliamentary confidence vote on Thursday, party leader Giuseppe Conte said, in a move that looked likely to trigger the collapse of Prime Minister Mario Draghi’s government.
Other coalition parties have warned that they will quit the government if 5-Star boycotts the vote in the Senate, while Draghi himself has said he would not head an administration without Conte’s party on board.
Despite the threat of impending political chaos, Conte said at a 5-Star meeting that the party could not support the confidence motion, insisting the government should be doing much more to tackle growing social problems in the euro zone’s third largest economy.
“We will not participate in the vote tomorrow,” Conte said after a day of intense talks with 5-Star leaders and parliamentarians. He nonetheless left the door open for further discussions with Draghi on trying to overcome their differences.
“We are absolutely willing to dialogue, to make our constructive contribution to the government, to Draghi, (but) we are not willing to write a blank cheque,” he said.
There was no immediate comment from Draghi’s office.
The prime minister said on Tuesday that if 5-Star stopped backing the government it would be up to President Sergio Mattarella to decide what to do next.
However, the former president of the European Central Bank also said he would not be willing to lead a new government without 5-Star in the coalition, opening the prospect of early elections in the autumn.
Such a vote would be highly unusual in Italy because that is the period when governments traditionally draw up the complex budget law, which must be approved by the end of the year.
Mattarella asked Draghi to form a national unity coalition in early 2020 to help the country overcome the COVID-19 pandemic, and persuaded almost all the parties from across the political spectrum to take part.
5-Star has been increasingly unhappy in the coalition as its support in the opinion polls has plummeted and after one of its leading lights, Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio, split from the group last month, taking dozens of lawmakers with him.
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